November 11 News: Major U.S. Carbon Capture and Storage Effort Flounders So Coal is Still Not Clean

Key Story Below: A tax break that could help get America’s first offshore wind farm up and running has been available for two years. But no one can qualify for it.

Coal Project Hits Snag as a Partner Backs Off

The leading American effort to capture carbon dioxide from coal plants has hit a stumbling block that could imperil the project and set back a promising technology for addressing global warming, people involved in the venture said.

Ameren, the Midwestern power company that was to be the host for the project, has told its partners that because of its financial situation, it cannot take part as promised, although it has not told them exactly what it will do. The company had agreed to supply an old oil-fired power plant in Meredosia, Ill., that would be converted to demonstrate the carbon-capture technology on a commercial scale.

Participants in the venture, known as FutureGen 2.0., are to meet next week to work out how they might get access to the old plant, which Ameren recently said it would shut down by the end of the year, and how it might be maintained until the remaining partners are ready to take it over. The people who talked about the project asked not to be identified because FutureGen’s directors had not yet met.

While the other major partners, Babcock & Wilcox and Air Liquide, could seek to buy the plant and convert it without Ameren, time is short. The federal government promised the project $1 billion, or roughly 80 percent of its costs, on the condition that the money be spent by the end of 2015. That’s a tight time frame for developing a technology that has never been used on a commercial scale, the participants said.

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Never-Used Tax Credit Could Jumpstart U.S. Offshore Wind Energy—if Renewed

Congress is considering overhauling a never-used tax credit for offshore wind energy instead of letting it expire at the end of next year , as was originally scheduled.

The U.S. still doesn’t have a single turbine in its waters—compared to the 1,250 turbines spinning at nearly 50 offshore wind farms in Europe. Several U.S. industry leaders and analysts told InsideClimate News this is unlikely to change unless the untapped incentive is renewed.

The tax break, available since 2009, gives offshore wind developers a credit worth 30 percent their project costs if they begin construction by 2012. It was meant to help the dozen or so proposed wind parks get off the ground after the credit markets seized up.

But no wind developer has been able to take advantage of it because they don’t have approvals required under federal law. An uncertain permitting process in Washington has left projects in regulatory limbo for as much as a decade.

In part due to the permitting snags, “no bank has stood up and said they’ll finance offshore wind” in the U.S., said Peter Mandelstam, founder and president of NRG Bluewater Wind, a subsidiary of New Jersey power producer NRG Energy.

NRG Bluewater is now one of a handful offshore wind developers that’s literally banking on Congress to preserve the tax credit as the Obama administration moves faster to approve projects. His firm has been trying to build a $1 billion-plus, 450-megawatt wind park off the coast of Delaware for five years now. Strong and steady winds at sea can generate more carbon-free electricity than wind blowing on land, but offshore turbines are expensive—at least 50 percent more to build than those on land.

Our project is “not financeable” without a government kickstart, Mandelstam said.


20 Responses to November 11 News: Major U.S. Carbon Capture and Storage Effort Flounders So Coal is Still Not Clean

  1. S. D. Jeffries says:

    Does anyone know what the regulatory hold-up for the wind project is all about? Does the energy department, or EPA, or whatever agency is responsible for permitting have enough employees? Or is the problem that the process hasn’t been fully defined? Just reporting that there is a “delay” is not very helpful.

  2. Martin Lack says:

    I really don’t understand how it is that the fossil fuel lobby is able to get away with perpetuating this myth that coal can be clean. As James Hansen says, we will never pursuade oil and gas-rich nations to leave hydrocarbons in the ground and, since burning all fossil fuels will make climate catastrophe a dead certainty, we must get our governments to leave the (dirty) alone instead.

    Conversely, to pursue carbon capture and storage is to excuse the status quo, and is also inherently dangerous since it will only be effective if we can guarantee that the CO2 never escapes, which we cannot.

  3. Jay Alt says:

    I liked this quote in NYT article on sequestration –

    Nick Welch, a consultant on carbon capture projects, said,
    “If you were really serious about getting on with this stuff, even in the complex democracy that we live in, you might find a way of getting through all this.”

  4. Michael T says:

    NASA relased their October 2011 global temeperature data:

    Despite the La Nina, global temperature was the 8th warmest October in the NASA record. Here is the global temperature anomaly map for October:

  5. Andy says:

    The hold up is due to a lawsuit over already issued federal permits. Wealthy residents on Martha’s Vineyard or somewhere similar.

  6. Colorado Bob says:

    Oklahoma Struck By Biggest November Tornado on Record

    flash flooding over parts of south central Oklahoma during the late evening of Nov. 6 and early morning of Nov. 7. Rainfall totals up to 9 inches (23 centimeters) were reported across parts of two counties.

  7. Colorado Bob says:

    More about Oklahoma this year-

    Oklahoma’s July average temperature was a scorching 88.9 degrees, the warmest to occur in any state during any month on record.
    At the other extreme, Oklahoma recorded its coldest temperature on record on February 10 when Nowata dipped to a frigid -31 degrees. On that same the day, the state’s heaviest 24-hour snowfall on record piled up, with 27 inches measured in Spavinaw.
    * Biggest hailstone: In Gutebo, Ok., a hailstone measuring 6″ in diameter crashed down on May 23.

  8. A. Jessen says:

    So this means we’ll no longer see the “clean coal” commercials, right? :-) Well, maybe if honor and honesty were key tenets of big business. The trouble is, for the most part fossil CO2 still isn’t even recognized as a cumulative pollutant, so they can still claim that newer technologies are (at least relatively) clean.

  9. Paul Revere says:

    “The federal government promised the project $1 billion, or roughly 80 percent of its costs, on the condition that the money be spent by the end of 2015. That’s a tight time frame for developing a technology that has never been used on a commercial scale, the participants said.”

    Congress is poised to massively revise the tax code, whether to be revenue neutral or get more money to cut the deficit. Congress is poised to cut spending. Why in Heaven’s name is this site pushing subsidy after subsidy instead of daily pushing a carbon tax which could be part of the new tax code mix and make alternative energies competitive on their own merits?

  10. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Any approach but the most rapid roll-out of renewables as fast as humanly possible is suicidal. Carbon sequestration is pure bulldust, designed specifically to waste money, protect fossil fuel profits as long as possible and delay renewables. In this country the current Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, a woman of impeccable stupidity, claims to be acting against climate change, then tells coal miners that they and their descendants will be mining coal for ‘generations’. The only question is whether she is unbelievably ignorant, or gob-smackingly disingenuous. But she is-get this-regarded as a ‘Leftwing radical’ by the local Right, who have at least rejected science and rationality openly and proudly.

  11. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    To paraphrase the late, great, Groucho, ‘In business the most important thing is sincerity (or honesty, consistency, humanity etc)-once you can fake that, you’ve got it made!’

  12. prokaryotes says:

    A woman ask a spiritual leader how to act on climate change

    The message is to become “clean” – live the change you want to see in others.

  13. prokaryotes says:

    Methane a growing threat to Arctic’s changing climate

    Concentrations of carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide continued to increase at the same steep rate observed over the past decades. Perhaps more alarming was a surge in the presence of atmospheric methane, which began a sudden increase in 2007 after about 10 years of stability.

  14. prokaryotes says:

    A storm system resemblign a hurricane from orbit. Meterologist had to create a new form of storm system to classify this storm.

    What’s that ask for a monster? Looks like a hurricane and even proves to be as stormy! Southern Europe was raging this week over a monstrous low pressure vortex. Meteorologists specially invented a new category of storm.

  15. prokaryotes says:

    Branson picks Carbondale biochar company as finalist for $25M prize

    The Carbondale-based start-up Biochar Solutions has been named as one of 11 clean technology companies from around the world competing for a $25 million prize from Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Earth Challenge.

    Biochar Solutions was founded in March by Morgan Williams, who patented a biochar formula for land applications.

    “We’re so excited to be working with Virgin and to bring biochar to the global mainstream,” Williams said Friday.

    The Virgin Earth Challenge is an ongoing competition, launched in 2007. It is the brainchild of Virgin’s billionaire founder, Richard Branson and former Vice President Al Gore. They’re searching for a company that has developed a commercially viable model that also permanently removes greenhouse gases from the atmosphere to combat global warming.

  16. Mike Roddy says:

    God exists after all. He is punishing Texas and Oklahoma for allowing its Congressmen to become employees of the oil industry.

  17. Mike Roddy says:

    CCS was never anything other than a PR stunt. Even Bush got embarrassed, and dropped FutureGen before he left office.

    Obama needs to stare coal in the face- with all of its toxins, greenhouse gases, and environmental devastation- symbolically throw up at a press conference, and announce that we are going to phase it out. Fast.

    Of course, that is not our Barry. A future president will do so, but by then it will be too late.